I’m always weary when extra-musical content — i.e. an album’s concept — is used to off-set a lack of musical content, but in some moments of Bat for Lashes’ The Bride, the concept bolsters the music: the simple and minimal love-song of “I Do” leading to thunderclouds on “Joe’s Dream” and the lyric “There’s a tear in my lover’s eye,” undercutting our protagonist’s chance for happiness (“And know that the grey skies will blow away”). Then, there’s the vocal pyrotechnics of Natasha Khan repeating “FIRE” on “In God’s House” that leads into the car crash and her groom’s death on “Honeymooning Alone”.
But there are over-arching problems here: the lyricism that doesn’t relate to anyone except the singer, which is especially troubling on the mostly lyric-driven “Widow’s Peak”; the lack of color from the lugubrious and minimalistic approach (excepting the vocal shading of “Joe’s Dream” and the Western-tinged “Honeymooning Alone”); the dearth of melodies, make the relatively short album get wearying over time, especially when you add the too-pristine production. Amidst boring ballads like “Land’s End” and “If I Knew”, the fast-paced “Sunday Love” distinguishes itself.
As usual for any female art-popper, other female art-poppers that were minding their business, in this case, Kate Bush and Portishead, get dragged into comparison, except Natasha Khan isn’t as whimsically theatrical as the former, nor does she possess the tortured soul of Beth Gibbons, to say nothing of the fact that the music sounds nothing like either artist. No one’s denying she’s a good singer, technically speaking; I’m simply denying that these are good songs. C PLUS